Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How-To: Look Like a Swede

Tall. Slender body. Blonde. Blue-eyed. Flawless skin. High cheek bones. That is the image that many have when they picture a Swede. Don't get me wrong, the media has provided many prime candidates to prove this true: Malin Åkerman of Couples Retreat, Alexander Skarsgård of True Blood, musician/DJ Avicii, and Tiger Woods' ex-wife Elin Nordegren.
Malin Åkerman
Alexander Skarsgård
Elin Nordegren
Take, for example, this photo-collage of when I played in Sweden during the 2011-2012 season. All blondes with blue-eyes...

Pictured left to right: Emma and Sofie, me and Jo (both American), Malin, and Lisa.
Although many of the Swedes I have met DO, in fact, have eyes and hair on the lighter side, blonde hair and blue eyes are not a Swedish guarantee. Despite having a population of 9.64 million people, there are a vast amount of foreign-born immigrants, which causes a mixture of physical traits. Sweden does not base demographics on ethnicity, thus making exact numbers difficult, however national backgrounds are recorded and show that 14% of Swedish residents are foreign-born. The top ten foreign-born groups hail from:

  1. Finland
  2. Iraq
  3. Poland
  4. Former Yugoslavia
  5. Iran
  6. Bosnia and Herzegovinia
  7. Germany
  8. Turkey
  9. Denmark
  10. Somalia
Such influx of immigrants has been a major source of population growth and cultural diversity throughout Swedish history. 

To maintain the Swedish figure, many adhere to their native "Nordic diet" in which they consume local, seasonal vegetables, fatty fish (rich in Omega 3's) and often participate in regular exercise. Genetics will play a strong role is your body-type, and as in any first-world country, abundant food options can allow for consumers to fall victim of over-eating. Depending which side of the food-spectrum you choose to participate, your body shape will likely follow.

I have also noticed that Sweden makes staying active an easy part of everyday life, thus promoting the Swedish slender figure. Most cities and towns have bike and walking paths that makes getting around safe and easy for all ages. People are much more likely to ride their bike to and from school or work than they are to drive; not only giving them an outdoor exercise, but also keeping down on the overall pollution. Many people will also participate in some sport, hiking/skiing, or just going to the gym.
Town map of Ljungby
Of course, as the seasons change, so do the activities in which the locals will participate. In the summer, you can find Swedes hanging out near any body of water they can find, enjoying barbecues, tanning, golfing, beach volleyball, and soccer. As winter approaches, people turn to skiing, hiking, and hockey. Whatever the weather, Swedes will find some way to get outdoors, even if for a short time.

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